Meghan and Harry poach top Melinda Gates staffer to lead new charity

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have poached one of Bill and Melinda Gates’ top staffers to lead their new charity, Page Six has been told.

Hours after we confirmed they had fled their Canadian bolthole for a new full-time home in Los Angeles, it was revealed they have hired Catherine St-Laurent as chief of staff and executive director of their nonprofit enterprise.

St-Laurent, a mom of two, is currently director at Pivotal Ventures, Melinda Gates’ women and families foundation.

In an email seen by Page Six, St-Laurent wrote to friends and colleagues: “After nearly 9 years alongside Melinda and the Gates Foundation and Pivotal Ventures teams, I am moving on to begin a new chapter and wanted to make sure to share my contact info so we can stay in touch.

“Beginning next week I will be acting as Chief of Staff and Executive Director of the new non-profit enterprise for Meghan M and Harry. They are embarking on a new chapter themselves and I am thrilled to be able to play a supporting role in realizing their vision and enabling them to achieve impact on the issues that matter most to them.”

As we revealed, Harry and Meghan’s new venture is not a foundation, as a source said: “It’s not likely to be a traditional charity. Harry and Meghan want to find their own way of giving back and new ways to make change.”

On Thursday, sources confirmed the pair are setting up a home in Hollywood, leaving Canada with baby son Archie just hours before the borders were closed over the coronavirus pandemic.

St-Laurent is a native of Montreal, so it’s believed she would have met Meghan and Harry through their Canada crowd, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his wife, Sophie, Meghan’s BFF Jessica Mulroney and Jessica’s TV anchor husband, Ben Mulroney, the son of former Canada PM Brian Mulroney.

She has been the strategy lead for Melinda Gates, supporting her involvement in groundbreaking campaigns that are helping transform the lives of women around the world.

These include the Family Planning 20-20 plan, which Gates launched in London in summer 2012 alongside former Prime Minister David Cameron and other world leaders. The program aims to ensure contraception is available to 120 million women around the world who currently do not have access to birth control.

It had long been thought the Sussexes would look to the powerful Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as something they would want to emulate.

Intriguingly, Prince William and his wife, Kate Middleton, met with Bill Gates in October 2019 at Kensington Palace, shortly after Harry and Meghan left the Royal Foundation, which Harry set up with William and Kate.

The low-key meeting wasn’t announced beforehand, but was recorded in the Court Circular, the official daily record of royal engagements, ITV reported.